Province Introduces Legislation to Reduce Construction Delays

November 8, 2023

BRITISH COLUMBIA – The province has announced the introduction of new legislation to reduce construction delays and streamline processes to fund key services, infrastructure and amenities for growing communities.

Currently, some high-growth municipalities use the rezoning process to negotiate with homebuilders for funding needed for amenities to support the growth and vibrancy of their communities. These negotiation processes can be drawn out, delaying construction and adding additional and sometimes unexpected building costs.

The new legislation, if passed, supports the introduction of Bill 44 to allow upfront zoning, which will facilitate an increase in housing supply in communities throughout BC. The legislation will require local governments to shift their planning process to an up-front framework, pre-zone land to meet their housing needs and reduce the use of current rezoning processes.

As local governments shift to more upfront planning and zoning, the proposed legislation provides high-growth communities with a more efficient and transparent development-finance tool called an amenity cost charge (or ACC). Instead of amenity costs and agreements coming together during the rezoning stage, this tool is part of the upfront planning process, giving builders and municipalities a better, clearer and more transparent understanding of costs associated with a housing project from the start.

“UDI is encouraged by this new legislation, which aims to make development charges more transparent and predictable,” said Anne McMullin, president and CEO, Urban Development Institute (UDI). “Combined with the zoning measures announced last week, these are some of the most substantial changes to the development approval process in decades.”

“The need to reform development financing was a key finding of the Development Approvals Process Review report, and the BC Real Estate Association is supportive of efforts on the part of government to bring more clarity, transparency and predictability to the fees collected by local government from builders of new housing,” said Trevor Koot, CEO of the BC Real Estate Association.

The legislation also makes changes to development cost charges and development cost levies (in the Vancouver Charter). Development cost charges are an existing legislative tool that allow local governments to collect funds from home builders to help pay for specific, core infrastructure needs, such as drainage, water, sewer, and roads, before a development is built. Changes through this legislation will allow local governments the flexibility to allocate funds collected from homebuilders to support additional local services and infrastructure: fire protection facilities (fire halls), police facilities and solid-waste facilities that support new homes. Prior to this amendment, one of the only options to recover these costs was through property taxes.

“As we know, we need to build more housing faster than ever. At the same time, municipalities need to collect fees to build the infrastructure to support new housing. The changes proposed by the Province help address some of the challenges with our current system, including increasing transparency to builders and speeding up the housing approval process,” said Nathan Pachal, mayor of Langley.

“Recent provincial policies have enabled accelerated home building, which in turn will demand increased municipal infrastructure. This legislation recognizes that, and ensures local governments have the tools they need to fund the infrastructure, and community amenities and services needed to ensure neighbourhood livability. I welcome ongoing provincial commitments to expedite housing, while supporting municipalities as they address the challenges of growth,” said Marianne Alto, mayor of Victoria.

Additionally, cost-shared provincial highway projects, such as interchanges and highway exits that benefit the community, such as accessing a new housing project, are included. For example, if passed, the legislation will allow a municipality to use development cost charges to help pay for a portion of an interchange required to access a new housing project for a large housing project adjacent to a provincial highway. Previously, this would have been paid for by the municipality, often through an increase in property taxes or at the expense of other local infrastructure priorities.

This legislation will apply to both the Local Government Act and Vancouver Charter and builds on the Province’s recent work to support local governments with the delivery of infrastructure projects necessary to enable community growth. This includes the $1-billion Growing Communities Fund launched in February 2023 and the recently announced $51 million in capacity funding to support local governments’ work to update their processes to meet new requirements to accelerate approval processes and build the homes people need.

Business Examiner Staff/Press release

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